Monday, January 26, 2015

Hey Family!
   Here's the news: I am going to Ventura!!! :) Yes! I am SO excited. I've always really wanted to go serve down in Ventura. I feel very blessed to have gone to 3 of my dream areas in a row! Pismo Beach, Solvang, and Ventura. I feel very blessed. Hooray, and I'm looking forward to the adventures and experiences that I will have in Ventura. I will be with a Sister Rasmussen. I've never met her and I don't know how long she's been in the mission, but I'm really excited to meet her. I hear she's sweet. Plus, I'm pretty excited to be the driver again. It's been a long 3 months. ;)  So guess where Sister Cox is going? She's going to my ward in Moorpark! I'm so excited for her and I've been telling her about all of the amazing people there. Yep, we're being white-washed here in Solvang with two new missionaries, but get this...remember Pismo Beach? Yep, we're getting replaced by Elders again! Maybe that's my specialty, preparing an area for Elders. We've left a lot of good notes and things for them. We're excited for all that is going on in our mission with this new transfer. We will drive down to Ventura for transfer meeting tomorrow. Exciting stuff to come!
   A quick recap on the work that happened this week:  The English class has been fun and is going well. We have some really weird words in our language. Haha. We had a lot of good lessons this week with D., A., and several others. The Solvang ward is doing well. We really enjoyed our lessons with A. in Hans Christian Andersen Park on a picnic table. We taught him the Plan of Salvation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ this week. Both went really well. We invited him to be baptized and he is working towards the date of March 7th. He is so sweet and sincere and he'll do well. We also were invited to teach the Activity Days this week. That was fun as we shared our experiences with deciding to serve a mission and preparing. We even did a few role-play games with them. It was sweet. And it made me feel old. :P Luckily I'm not really that old. I still think I'm 17. We also did service for P. and R. this week. We got R. to join us. (He's the returned missionary that I mentioned a few weeks ago that we take to a lot of lessons and work with a lot.) We've gotten pretty close to him and his Mom P. I'm grateful for those friendships. On his birthday we helped them cut up a dead tree in their back yard (I felt like you Alan as I cut down a tree!) and then they took us out to dinner at a pizza place. That night we had a church history movie night with them and R.'s friend who's investigating the church. It was a fun way to spend a Friday as a missionary.
   I am so grateful for all of the friendships and experiences that I've gained here. It's hard to leave areas and people behind, but it's also so exciting and wonderful to meet and see more people. The mission is awesome. It's perfectly packed with wonderful experiences, wonderful people, and wonderful opportunities to serve and to love everyone. I love it.
   On Tuesday I hit my 14 months being a missionary. How exciting is that? :) I'm seen and done so much and I still have several more months to love and to do my best! Thanks for the itineraries for our trips Mom. I'm super excited and that all sounds perfect! Also, thank you so much for all of the meal ideas. I will definitely put those to use.
   Dear Family, I just want you all to know that I love you very much. I really do pray for each of you specifically each night. I hope you are all doing well. Thank you for all of the support and love that you give to me. It means more than you know. You are all such a big part of my mission experience too. I'm grateful for that. And of course I am excited to see you all again when I get home. Keep doing your best and being your awesome selves. You are my favorite! Have an amazing week, enjoy delicious food, enjoy each other, and know that I love you.
   Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~14 Month Mission Birthday :)

~Cutting up a tree with Robert

Hey Family!
   I hope you are all having a wonderful day. Lots of love coming your way from California. I love you a lot. :)
   Alright, here's the report for the week: Our area is doing alright. We are still struggling a bit to find people to teach, but this weekend a couple of miracles happened. A young woman in our ward has a friend who wants to meet with us and learn more. We are having dinner and a lesson with her family and her friend this week on Wednesday night. We are excited, especially to be teaching in a member's home. Yesterday at church a man named A. who met the missionaries down in LA came to church on his own. He's living up here with his family for at least a couple of weeks and is anxious to continue learning about the gospel. He stayed for all 3 hours of church and is already being fellowshipped. He participated in our Gospel Principles class which Sister Cox and I was teaching and even voluteered to say the closing prayer. We're excited to go teach him this week. L. is still sick, but is feeling a bit better and said that we can probably start coming over again this week. We met with the bishop yesterday and things are going well in this ward.
   Don't you love those random little tender mercies that Heavenly Father sends our way? On Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church I was thinking about the song "I Am A Child Of God" and thinking about how much I love that truth and how happy that song makes me. I made a small wish that we could sing that song. I got a nice warm hug from a loving Heavenly Father who is aware of everything that we think and feel. :) Our intermediate hymn was "I Am A Child Of God." It was something so small and simple but it meant a lot to me. He is aware. He loves all of us.
   The rest of church was wonderful too. We had great lessons and talks and the Spirit was able to teach us much. Fun random thing for the week. 2 of the speakers in Sacrament Meeting are players on the BYU football team. Scott Arellano and Kevin O'Mary gave wonderful talks. Scott Arellano's family lives in our ward so that's why they're here. So that was fun. The football stories were cool. :)
   We also had exchanges with the sister training leaders on Saturday. Sister Cox went up to San Luis Obispo and I stayed here with Sister Collings. I am SO grateful for Sister Collings. She helped me so much and we had a wonderful day full of miracles in the work, learning and sharing with each other, and a lot of fun. It was fantastic and she gave me so much support and encouragement. I feel like I can face the rest of this transfer with a lot of hope and courage. I'm doing well. Plus, it was sprinkling almost all day, so that made the day very happy and fun. Yay for random rain! We'll take all we can get.
   I learned a lot this week. Here is my spiritual thought for the day: Can I just say that it is amazing how the Lord teaches us certain things? He knows our full potential and He knows how we need to grow and what we need to learn. He orchestrates our lives in the perfect way so that we are continually becoming more like Him if we do our part. This weekend I was thinking a lot about the scripture 2 Nephi 28:30 "...I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more..." Line upon line. I think that sometimes it is hard for us to understand why we are going through something tough. Sometimes it isn't until we get through it and we recognize what we learned and how we grew that we understand and appreciate it. It is a really exciting moment when you recognize what you've been learning. I had a couple of moments this week where I was I able to see a little bit more clearly and I could see what the Lord has been teaching me. I have been learning and growing a lot these last two transfers. It's been cool in the last week or so to look back and realize the things that I have learned about leadership, patience, example, repentance, faith, strength, and endurance in the last two transfers. I am so grateful for how Heavenly Father teaches me so much. I recognize that it is "line upon line" and that He knows me and what I am ready for and what I am preparing for. The gospel is amazing. His plan for us is amazing. :) He's been teaching me. I'm so grateful for these lessons. Even though it can be really hard. He knows what we need. It's also cool to see how I've changed throughout my mission. I think I handle hard situations a little bit better now than I did a year ago. :) Well...We're all on a journey. After thinking about the "line upon line" thing. I was reading a talk from the General Women's Broadcast by Sister Stevens. In it she invited us to remember and think back to our Baptism and remember the significance of that first covenant that we made. She stated, "Each covenant is made one by one. Every mighty change of heart matters to the Lord. And yours will make all the difference to you." After I read that I thought back on my life and I wrote down about a dozen very significant spiritual events that have happened on my life. All of those experiences were very special to me and helped me grow closer to Heavenly Father. Now, looking down at this list that I have I can see the "line upon line". I am amazed at how the Lord knows us, prepares us, teaches us, and leads us through life. He loves us and His plan for us is perfect. I know it.
   Well, I hope that you all have a fantastic week. Have fun! I hope you had a very Happy Birthday James! Mom and Dad, thank you SO much for your emails and letters and the package this week. They meant so much to me. They were perfect.
I love you all.
~Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~The oil rigs at sunset.

~You may not be able to see it, but it was raining. :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Good Morning Family!
   How are things going in Utah, Virginia, other parts of California, etc? I had a dream last night that it snowed in Solvang! Crazy! No one knew how to drive in it. I was worried because I forgot to get a picture of it and thought that none of you would believe me. Good thing it was a dream right? :) Snow is Solvang would be pretty cool. Have you had anymore up there? Sorry to hear that there's been some sickness. You're all in my prayers and I hope you feel well soon. Also, to make you laugh, I hope you enjoyed my Viking picture. I feel right at home.
   Here's the report for this week: The work is going well. The first few days were a bit one could meet with us. In the second half of the week things picked up and we were able to serve, teach, and love a lot. A. is doing well. We had a lesson with him this week at a picnic bench in a park and taught him the Restoration. As always, testifying of how I know that this church is true is a highlight for me. Testifying and sharing what you know with others is a sure way to strengthen your own testimony and knowledge. He is receiving it all well and wants to continue learning. The other night we were walking down the main street in downtown Solvang and we ran into him long-boarding and were able to share some more with him. It's really sweet to hear how much his missionaries that he first met down in LA mean to him. He had to leave really fast and was gone for over 40 days before coming here. Those elders and sisters have no idea how much their interaction with him means to him. I hope that they're able to meet again someday so he can tell them himself. Every time he prays he thanks Heavenly Father for them and for us. It's humbling. Dad, I loved what you shared with my in your letter. I hope that the influence that I'm leaving on people is a lasting one and that they can feel my love and my testimony, that it can be a strength to them. We also started teaching a young man named D. who is a friend of one of the young women in our ward. He told us that he can see the light in her and in her family. He wants to know what they know that causes them to glow. :) He doesn't have any religious background, but he is so sincerely seeking this. We're excited to see him again this Wednesday night. Our ward is no doing an English class for anyone who is trying to or interested in learning English. The Spanish influence here is big. The Hermanas have a lot of people that want to learn, and they've needed our help with the classes, so that's something fun that we're now doing every Tuesday and Thursday night. Who would have thought?
   We had personal interviews with President Felix this week in Lompoc. They went really well. It was really good to talk with President Felix for a while. Things are going really well and I'm doing great. I'm cheerful, I'm feeling well, I'm excited for what is to come, and I'm feeling strong enough to do all that I am asked to do. I know that that strength comes from the Lord and from our obedience to him. Everything is in His hands, and we can do this. :)
   Something a little bit hard happened this week. We got a call from President Felix this week for Sister Cox. There are some really hard health problems going on in her family right now with her grandparents. It's been really hard for her of course, but she's doing well and I'm impressed by her strength. I've been really focusing on helping her, keeping her cheerful, and occupied. We had a good, fun week and we've gotten closer to each other. I feel trusted by Heavenly Father to be with her right now. I'm doing my best to be there for her.
   By the way, this week I hit my 14 month mark. Crazy stuff! Wow the time is flying. 
   Also, Transfers are next week! We will get our transfer calls this Saturday. We'll see what happens. I think it will be right. I feel at peace about it, so I'm excited.
   It's a yes on the Nauvoo Pageant?! Yes! I'm so excited. I'm ready and looking forward to it. Can I mark it on my brand new "Nature's Power" miniature 2015 calendar? What days will be gone through? Also, dare I ask, what days will we be on our June Cali/Hawaii trip? Anyway, I loved seeing those pictures from the pageant again. We are all so much younger! It's so fun to see. I'm excited for this Summer. Thanks Mom and Dad!
   Today after emails we will be going over to Patriarch Millett's for lunch. He is so kind and he loves feeding the missionaries each week, so we get to go relax and talk with the Hermanas for a while while eating his famous, delicious taco recipe. (Yeah, I like tacos now...and salad...and veggies...and oatmeal...and broccoli...and roast beef...etc. Yeah, my tastes have changed quite a bit on my mission. A lot of things that I used to hate, I now love. Hope it lasts!) Anyways, after lunch we'll drive to Lompoc for sports with our zone. I'll probably sit there and write letters to you Mom and Dad, while I chat with Sister Moure and other missionaries over there. The zone leaders are bringing pizza today so that should be great. It's so fun to be around other missionaries, and I have to say, I love being able to talk with Sister Moure again. I love her. We have so much fun. We really are such good friends. It's funny how the companionships that were the hardest are most often the ones where you become the closest. You get good times and hard times, but it is definitely all worth it and the Lord knows what he's doing.
   Well it's time for me to sign off soon, so I'll close off with a funny story. This week we went to contact a referral that a member had given us of a sweet young family. We knocked on their door and two little girls answer. With a confused face the older one says, "Who are you?!" The younger one was just beaming at us. We answered, "We're the missionaries! Are your Mom and Dad home?" They said yes and and smiled as they ran off to find their parents. They ran around for a few minutes trying to find them. They finally did and then as all of them were walking down the hallway around the corner, we here, "Mom! Dad! The professionals are here!" :) It was SO funny. We had a good laugh about that one once we got back to the car. Unfortunately the family wasn't too interested in our message, but I'll bet that those two little girls will remember us at least a little bit. Maybe it was just to help us laugh. We'll take it!
   Okay, I hope you all have a wonderful day. Your missionary loves every single one of you.
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~Viking Pride! Thanks Solvang. (I took this just 30 minutes ago.)

~I put our picture up this week Beth, and then I was eating Frozen jelly beans and I set down the package and had to laugh when I thought we looked similar. :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hey Everyone!
   I hope you're having a wonderful day. It's a beautiful, clear day in Solvang. Temperatures are cool and breezes are nice. It is quite pretty and pleasant. But...we all know I love the snow and cold best. ;) Are you still getting snow in Utah? How were your New Year's celebrations?! I always have an interesting experience with New Year's Eve. I am surprised by all the clear and memorable moments that are in mind memory of different New Year's Eves. It is one of the days that I can remember very clearly in several different years. It's kind of fun. A lot of good and exciting times. And a lot to look forward to as well. I laughed when I opened my journal up to last New Year's Eve and saw that I had written the same thing about having so many memories coming back. I guess it's just a memorable day. I like it. :) And I've been able to add my mission New Year's Eve memories to it as well. This week we watched the Testaments and ate our usual great New Year's Eve treats and snacks. We also practiced throwing pomegranite seeds across the room into each other's mouths. Haha.
   Welcome to 2015! Wow! When did that happen? Isn't it exciting? It's always fun to start a New Year. I am very excited for this year and all that it will contain. The New Year is a great time for reflecting, and it has brought a lot of resolutions, goals, and desires to do my best. I am very excited to see what this year of 2015 brings. I am doing my best. As I mentioned, I've made a few really good resolutions for this year and for the rest of my mission in general. I have studied about setting goals and accountability a lot this week and I prayerfully set my goals and have been accounting to the Lord each day on how I am doing. I know that He has great plans for me and great things in store if I continue to do my best and if I continue to always strive to be worthy. I love Him and I trust Him. I'm doing my best to do His will. Concerning my resolutions, something a lot of missionaries do here every week while setting goals is that we set personal goals in 3 specific categories: Spiritual Goal, Health Goal, and Fun/Other Goal. I have set my 3 goals and I am excited. I wish you all success in your goals and resolutions! You've got this!
   Our area is doing alright. Our companionship is doing really well, especially this weekend. With weekly planning we had a really good discussion that helped us a lot. We are both struggling with different things, but we're doing better at helping each other more and doing our best every day. We are definitely improving every day and this weekend was great! We worked really hard and were really unified. Things are going well. I think Sister Cox is great and I can see how much she is striving to do her best. I love her. This week Sister Cox was really sick for several days and we were unable to go out to work very much. But this weekend went really well. We were able to go out and talk to everyone we could find. (I did part of the puzzle Mom while listening to the new CD. I love them both!) Tracting is fun. It's kind of exciting and it holds exciting moments, sad moments, scary moments, confusing moments, powerful moments, funny moments, and joyful moments all within a small amount of time or a small space. I don't know if you ever get over all of the fear of it, but it does make you feel like a real missionary though. I have come to appreciate it a lot this transfer because we haven't actually had a ton of time to just go knocking. L. is having a lot of bad health problems right now and is on bed rest. She hasn't been able to come to church again, but we have been able to help her a lot with reading the Book of Mormon and finding peace in the Gospel. We're glad we are able to go see her so often. She needs a lot of encouragement and reminders to turn to the Gospel and the Lord for help in hard situations. I guess we all need reminders sometimes. I know I do. But the more we fill our lives with the scriptures, sincere prayer, and with keeping the commandments the more we will remember to turn to Him when things get hard. I know that that is true. I've seen it work as I've been on my mission. My ability to be deal with trials and my ability to stay optimistic and hopeful have increased greatly over the last year. I am so much happier! And it's way more consistent. It's easier to get back to that now. Learning more about and studying the scriptures and words of the prophets is powerful!
   Alright, you want a funny image from the week? Imagine two sister missionaries carrying a very prickly and dry pine tree out of their apartment, down the stairs and across the road, dropping pine needles everywhere. Then the missionaries proceed to attempt to stuff the whole tree into the back seat of their car. Haha. I bet we looked ridiculous! The members who gave us the tree needed the stand back that was nailed to the bottom, so we somehow had to get the whole tree over to Santa Ynez on the other side of our ward. We did get the tree in (did I mention that his name was Tree-ancum?) and we drove to drop it off with boughs over our shoulders. I told Sister Cox that story of the Catalpa tree and the spider coming to get me. :) Do you remember that Mom? She enjoyed the story and I enjoyed the fact that it did not happen again. :)
   I love you all very much and I hope that you have a very happy, fun, and uplifting week. You're in my thoughts and prayers.
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~The Testaments on New Year's Eve. :)